The Stranger: Taking Charge

The second story regarding the Stranger. Now Man has come to live in the forest. This pushes the deer into a making a terrible choice. That choice will affect the lives all all those in the forest for years to come. New friends and new enemies will appear resulting in great triumphs and heartbreaking tragedies. It will force new responsibilities onto Stranger that he did not plan on nor want. All of this, plus a growing family, will tax even the skills of the Stranger.

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8. The Hunting

 

 

After two days of merry making, both he and Claris felt The Season pass. Although he was still very attracted to her, she made no more attempts to couple with him. The Season had spent its fury with them. He only hoped the results would be as he wanted. He would know in the spring. They made their way back to the clearing as the greater light was overhead to check on the fawns. They approached down wind and quietly. In the clearing were a dozen fawns all sleeping silently and alone, except two. Off to one side he saw two fawns lying close together. It was Balo and Stena. They were lying close to each other as if paired. He walked silently into the clearing to and took in a deep breath through his nose. He then motioned Claris to follow him away from the fawns.

“You do not think,” Claris started to say and then stopped.

“There was no scent of breeding deer,” he told her. “Balo is too young to do anything, but they do obviously like each other.”

‘They are far too young for that,” she said.

“For making fawns, yes, they are too young. To like each other, no they are not. Remember Bambi and Faline were close before Bambi had her as a mate. Soon it will be winter. After that they will be on their own and we will have no say in their lives. Now come away; they and the others are sleeping, we will bother them later. We just have to accept that our children have a tendency to find mates too soon. Besides, I do not think we should go back to the cave and thicket yet."

He and Claris spent part of the day washing in the stream to remove the stronger scents of The Season. They also spent time just enjoying each other's company before the rigors of the hunting began. After dark they tried to sneak up on the fawns, but one of them saw them and announced their coming

 “I am glad to see you are all safe,” he told them. “Your parents will be along shortly to get you. Stay here until then. Stena, you may come with me now.”

Stena came over and said simply, “If you do not mind, Father, I will stay here until the others leave and then join you and Mother in the thicket.”

“As you wish,” he said and both of them left.

They went first to the cave and quietly went back to their thicket. He saw no sign of Bambi, Faline, Jolo, or Gurri. Around the cave he did smell the scents of breeding deer. They went on past the thicket and onto the meadow. They cautiously approached and saw several deer on the meadow feeding eagerly. There was still no light coming from any of the man caves. There was no scent of Man in the air. It was a good time to eat their fill. As it got closer to day, he saw other deer come on to the meadow in pairs or alone. Most deer only paired doing The Season. Only a few of the deer would be together for the rest of the year.

As they finished, they were joined by Jolo and Gurri. The way they walked close together and looked to relax in each other's company indicating there were now were a pair. “It was a good Season,” Jolo said. “There were no problems from Man, and I heard few fight between males.”

“Good,” he said looking at the darken Man caves. “We must watch them closely, I do not expect Man to stay away for much longer. As soon as Man returns I will call the herd together in the clearing and we will make plans to avoid the hunt.”

“I understand,” Jolo told him.

“We are going to get Balo now,” Gurri added.”

“I just saw the fawns, they are all fine,” he said. “Having them stay together was a good idea.” He then turned and became very serious. "In the next few days, things will get very loud, and violent around here. As senior members of this herd, the others will look to you for advice and help. We must be ready."

Both Gurri and Jolo made a slight bow and went back up the stream toward the clearing. There were still doubts in his mind about Jolo. He could only hope things would go better than with the dogs. He stayed on the meadow looking at those who entered. By near morning most had come down. As the lesser light set he saw Bambi and Faline enter from behind them.

“It looks to have been a good Season ,” he said.

“Few fights,” Bambi added then stopped and looked at the Man cave. “Look at the Man path.” he said with concern. He turned and saw two pair of bright eyes coming down the path heading straight for them.

“Leave the meadow,” he called out loudly. The few other deer stopped eating and ran into the forest. The four of them did likewise.

There was noise on the meadow that morning.  It was the familiar noise of Man making things as before. Later on in the day there was even more noise and this time there was shouting. More men had arrived. That could only mean one thing; the hunt would begin shortly, perhaps tomorrow. Bambi soon came back with Faline. Greta and Stena followed them. Stena came right up to him and told him  just like Jolo: “The other fawns are now back with their mothers. We lost no one. Even the coyotes and the badgers stayed away from so many fawns so close together.”

“Good,’ he said like a herd leader. “You did well, Stena. Go rest because Man is back.”

“I like to talk to Mother alone, if you do not mind,” she said with a little apprehension.

“Go with your mother to the thicket. I want to stay here for a while and listen to the meadow. When you are done, call me,” he said and walked away.

He stood at the edge of the open area and listened to the noise. There was yelling together as before. There was also more banging sounds of things being made. Men were still coming in their man animals. That made him think they would not hunt today.  He started thinking of the about all that had happened to them in the last few days. It was then he looked up the stream toward the hills. They were high up from the meadow. Then he remembered his walk up there with Bambi.  An idea started to take shape in his head. After a while Bambi came up beside him.

“Man is back, but I think no hunt today,” he told him.

“Then there will be one tomorrow,” Bambi answered. “Are you going to call a gathering?”

“Tonight,” he said. “I think Man will again try and get up in the hills and chase us again onto the meadow where they will wait to kill us. I think I know a way to stop them.”

“How?” Bambi wanted to know.

When you took me to the top of the hill, we saw the other forest, but you also showed me the trees up there. If we get the deer up there, there are enough trees to hide in. There is also food up there in the open space we can use at night. Man will find it hard to get behind us to chase us to the meadow from there.”

Bambi looked at him for a second and then nodded. “It may work, it is better than getting chased and then killed.”

“You think it is worth a try?” he asked.

“Yes,” came the simple reply. “That is something not even my Father tried. You are different Stranger. You think differently.”

“Father,” he heard Stena call.

“We need to rest now, plan later,” he told Bambi. "Over the next few days I may have need of you."

"I am ready," Bambi said and walked back to his cave.

"I hope I am," he said and went back to his thicket. Neither Stena nor Claris had anything to say to him.

It was after dark and the banging noise from the meadow had stopped when he called the herd together again into the clearing. The shouting from the Men could be plainly heard. There were many men in the meadow. This meeting was well attended. Even some of the squirrels, possums, and other animals came and tried not to get trampled underfoot. He explained his plan to them. He then finished up with the following.

Bambi, Jolo, and I will watch the Men in the meadow. When it seems like they want to start hunting we will call to you. That may start as soon as tomorrow, At that point all of you will go up the hill and stay near the top behind the trees. It will be hard for Man to get behind us so it will be difficult for them to chase us. Remember this; even if Man is behind you, do not allow yourselves to be chased onto the meadow. To do so is to die.”

“We have never done this before,” Tena, an older doe called out. “Will this save us?”

“I hope so, but I have never done this myself,” he said calmly. “I do know very well what happens when Man chases animals onto the meadow. We saw that last Season and several of us died there.”

A two year male Brano then asked, “Can we eat the grass in the open area past the top of the hill? Is it like the meadow grass?”

“We should, but that open spot is not as well watered as the meadow. I would not go too far from the trees and I would test the air for the presence of Man. The grass should be good enough to eat.”

"What do we do if Man comes all the way up the hill?" Duro, one of Sinno's friends  added. "They could find us."

"These Men do not seem to have dogs," he said. "Even in daylight Man has a hard time seeing us. If they do manage to find us, we scatter and stay apart until after Man leave."

"I hope you are right," Duro replied. There was little respect in his voice.

There were no more questions. With that he decided to go to the meadow and watch from his place of hiding. Jolo, Gurri, Bambi, and Faline insisted on coming with him as did the fawns. Finally even Claris decided to come. He rather would have done this alone since he would be harder to see with only him, but it be a good lesson for the fawns. They all went to their watching place.

There were many lights shining in the man cave. Also many of the other Man caves were well lit. He saw many Men outside. He did not see any dogs. The number of Men was greater than before. What got his attention was the number of Men that did not look like they had killing sticks. There were also many more fires lit. All of the Men were drinking and shouting together. He saw one thing that terrified him. He saw many long sticks tired together standing behind the new Man caves. He had seen them before when he lived with Man. Man tied dead deer to the sticks and prepared them for being eaten. He decided not to mention this to the others, but it was a sure sign Man was here to kill deer. The wind blew in the wrong direction to smell any Man scent. They watched for a while. Later on when the lesser light was high overhead, then Men put out their fires and went inside. All the lights soon went out and it was quiet.

“Do we try and eat on the meadow?” Jolo asked him. “I see no dogs to warn the Men.”

“I hear nothing and I do not smell anything.” Bambi added. “I think it is safe.”

He had to agree, but they could always be wrong.

“We eat near the trees,” he told them. “All of you watch the Man caves. If you see any lights go on, if you see Men come out of the caves, if you hear any loud and unfamiliar noise, you all run. Do not run together, but run into the forest and we will all meet next to Bambi’s cave.”

They all nodded approval and they all went out on the meadow together and then spread out quickly. They ate just as quickly. A few of the herd also join them and together they ate and drank their fill before the first streaks of red appeared in the distance. It was then he heard Jolo bleat loudly a warning. He looked up and saw many pairs of glowing eyes travel down the Man path toward them. Many, many, more than before.

“Run,” he called out.

The herd scattered in many different directions.  He stopped a few lengths into the forest and called out his warning to the herd. It was picked up by Jolo and Bambi. By then the Man animals had stopped and he saw many Men get out all carrying the killing sticks. They would hunt today it looked to him. He raced back to the cave and found the others already there.

“We need to go to the top of the hill,” he told them. “Man has come in large numbers and he has come here to kill.”

They all traveled quickly up the stream, past the clearing and the pond and beyond until the stream flowed into the open. They climbed the hill and got to the top. By then, all of them were worn out.

“Spread out and keep low,” he told all the deer there. "Hide behind trees and bushes."  

“He and Claris took cover under a tall stand of pine trees. He saw Bambi and Faline a distance away behind bushes. The three fawns found a small hollow in the ground and bedded down. He lost sight of Gurri and Jolo. He could hear the footsteps of other deer running up the hill. He could also smell the other deer nearby. It appeared the herd had done what he asked them, he only hoped he was correct.

As they lay down, Claris snuggled up close to him and lay against his side. It was a pleasant way to spend the day avoiding man.

“So what did Stena and you talk about?” he asked. He had not had a chance to talk with Claris alone for a while.

Claris seemed to smile openly. “She told me that she had slept with Balo during the Season, and that nothing happened. Balo did not try and couple with her. She told me she liked the feeling of him lying next to her. She told me it made her feel warm inside. I told her lying next you did the same thing to me. Then she asked me how I felt, and I told her we had been together and I hoped I would have another fawn in the spring. Finally she told me she was happy for us and that she would try and do the same thing next Season.”

“So our little fawn is not so little anymore,” he said.  “The only thing is that Balo will not be big enough to challenge anyone for Stena next Season."

“So she will either have to run away with Balo when the Season starts to where the other males cannot find her, or she will have to do what I did that first season and kick hard any male that gets near her. It did work for me before a deer I was interested in showed up.”

“That deer is still interested in you,” he told her and nuzzled the back of her neck. “Now let us sleep, we will need it.

They did not sleep for long. Soon they heard Men tramping through the forest and up the hill. The wind was from the distant forest so he could not smell them well. They got closer and was beginning to wonder if he had made a mistake coming here when they stopped.

“AAAYYYYYAAAAAA,” they stared to yell and make other noises by beating on something.

“AAAYYYAAA,” they repeated and soon it became obvious was that they were walking away from them.

The yelling and banging got less and less. There were only two sounds of the killing sticks. After the greater light was high over head, the yelling in the forest stopped. They actually managed to get sleep that day. That night they ate in the open area near the trees. The food was good, but they had to walk a distance to get to water. Still no deer were missing. The herd decided to stay up here again for the next day and night.

The next day the same activity was repeated. This time the yelling came from the forest on the other side of the meadow near the bear. Again there were only a few noises from killing sticks. Other than that, the day passed in quiet. At night they ate again in the open space and drank down at the stream. They were all back before the greater light rose.

On the following day they again heard Man near them, but it sounded like Man was walking up the stream and through the clearing. Nothing came near them. That was the last they heard of Man. There were no sounds of killing sticks that day at all. Where there were no noises on the next day, he and the herd decided to go back to their normal places. All he heard were praises that no one, other than three deer that did not follow his instructions, were killed this Season. He was happy and so was the rest of the herd.

 After dark they ate in the clearing. The grass there tasted better than on the hill, but there was only enough grass to feed the herd for several days. After the herd left them, they all walked down the stream. It was just after the greater light rose when they approached their thicket and cave. As they approached the clearing where Bambi’s cave was a strange smell caught his nose. It was awful smelling and hurt his nose to smell it.

“Skunk, has been nearby,” Bambi said. “We do not get many of them, but there are a few around.”

“I can smell nothing, but the skunk,” he said.

“It is awful,” Jolo said and he and Gurri, walked into the small clear along with Gerta. Balo was walking with Stena. As Jolo and Gurri were about to walk by Bambi’s cave they stopped suddenly and both their white tails shot up into the air.

“RUN!” Bambi yelled out.

As he and Claris turned he saw figures get up. Seconds later the air was filled with. WHAMMM, WHAMMM, WHAMMM, WHAMMMM, WHAMMMMM. He lunged back into the forest behind him. He lost sight of everyone else. All he knew was Claris was next to him. “WHAMM, WHAMMMM, WHAMMM he heard again. They ran changing directions several times. They both ran back to the clearing and hid in the trees. As he stopped he looked at Claris.

“Are you hit,” he asked and looked her over.  Thankfully she was unhurt.

“Are you hit,” she asked and looked him over. “No you are fine.”

“I lost sight of the others,” he said.

They waited hidden straining their ears and noses to pick up anything of Man, but there was nothing. It was a while later when he saw Balo and Stena walk into the clearing. Balo came out first with Stena lagging behind obviously hurt. The both got up and ran over.”

“Stranger, Stena has been hit,” Balo said almost in tears.

As he looked at his daughter she turned her side toward them. Down the length of her side was a long red streak, still bleeding.

“I turned, but not fast enough,” she said. Her voice was labored.

“Lie down,” he told his daughter and she did. He looked at her side. The wound ran down her side like his wound had, but there was only one. It was not deep. He saw blood, but little else and it was not bleeding badly. Near her left rear hindquarter the streak ended and he saw it. A small black stone was under her skin.  He remembered what the bear had told him when he had been hit in much the same way. The stone had to come out. The bear had taken them out with his claws, and it almost killed him. He had no claws, but he did have something almost as good, but he shuttered at the thought of what he was going to have to do.

He got down on his knees and looked his daughter in the face.

“Stena, there is a Man stone still in you. That stone has to come out or you will sicken and die. It is like when the bear saved me after I had been hit. I think I can take the stone out with my rack, but it is going to hurt worse than being hit. It will hurt you worse than anything you have ever felt. Can you understand this?”

“You" she said weakly. "You take out the stone or I die,” she gasped still breathing hard.

“Yes, and while I am doing this, no matter how much I hurt you, you must try and stay still."

She nodded and he looked at him. He used his short point on top of his forehead. He tilted his head and placed that point next to the black object. As he touched her skin she tensed up and let out a yell.

“You must be still,” he said. "Now prepare yourself."

He looked up at Claris who was already shedding tears. He looked at Balo who was already crying. He own eyes were misty, but he could not stop  He put his right center point next to the stone and when he was sure he was in the right position he lunged in penetrating her side and then brought his head up quickly to lift it out,

“AAAHHHOOOOOO," Stena screamed, and her four legs went stiff and then she went completely limp. For a moment he thought he had killed her, but she started to breathe again.  He looked down and although the wound was bleeding, he saw no stone.

“It is out,” he told her. “It cannot hurt you any longer. Now you must rest and recover your strength.” He then rubbed her face with his nose. “I am so sorry. I did not want to hurt you like that.”

“Pa-pa,” she said weakly like a little fawn.

He put his head next to hers.” Yes, my daughter.”

She licked his face. “Thank you, Pa-pa,” she said and seemed to fall asleep in front of them.

He turned his head away and sobbed uncontrollably for a while not wanting the others to see. He was brought back by Balo asking,” Have you seen my mother?”

He blinked several time. There were still things he must do.

“No I have not seen you mother. I am going to go back toward the cave and look. I want you all to stay here.”

Claris came over to him to block his way. “Not until after dark,” she said. “I cannot lose you too,” she said her eyes still full of tears. She was right; the others had to look out for themselves for now.”

He looked at Stena and then at Claris. "I am going to get Stena the same leaves we gave to Bambi. She will need them to get well. If I am not here, Claris you must feed Stena those leaves. The hurt to her muscle is not as bad as mine was. I hope she will not get stiff like I did, but it will take time for her to get over this."

"I will help," Balo said.

Balo looked so sincere. His eyes shed tears again. He nuzzled the young male. "Thank you," was all he could say.

They stayed together until after dark.

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